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Full text of "Rapid Population Growth Consequences And Policy Implications"

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zero growth rates were to be immediately achieved throughout the world. The reasons for this are thoroughly discussed elsewhere (38-40).*
Rapid population growth rates do make it more difficult to feed people, to prevent environmental deterioration, and to maintain the quality of life in other ways. Are there population policies that are more beneficial than harmful and which do not involve injustices or serious threats to human freedom? I wish to suggest some.
In a country like the United States, birth rates have been dropping for the past decade. We have time to see how much more can be done by extending voluntary family planning,t by providing health services where needed to improve infant and maternal care, by educating people to the bad consequences of continued population growth for the nation as well as the individual family, and by improving educational and job opportunities for everyone, especially blacks, women, and other currently disadvantaged groups.
What about the situation in less developed countries? On the basis of intensive research over a period of 7 years in the Punjab region of India, Gordon and Wyon hypothesize that people in such an area would be motivated to reduce their birth rates if mortality rates for infants and children were sharply decreased, local social units were stimulated to measure their own population dynamics and to draw inferences from them concerning their own welfare and aspirations, and efficient methods of birth control were introduced (6). Initiating these conditions would substantially increase the opportunities to reduce family size without undue fear, to assess more precisely how fertility affects families and their community, and to plan family size more effectively. Whether birth rates would be markedly lowered by bringing about these conditions alone would depend not simply upon the extent to which people in that region stand to benefit from a reduction in fertility but also upon the extent to which they actually perceive such benefits, both social and economic, and believe they are attainable.
Gathering and disseminating information is, therefore, a crucial aspect of this proposal. Without accurate information, a sense of group responsibility cannot exist on a rational basis and will have no perceptible dividend to the individual members. The proposal of Gordon and Wyon assumes that rational and purposeful behavior exists already to some degree and can be modified in the direction of lower fertility by certain modifications in the environment which make small families beneficial and more attainable.
Looking at the total ecological context within which population problems arise in the less developed countries—especially the factors of undcr-
*Sce also Joseph L. Fisher and Ncal Potter, "The Effects of Population Growth on Resource Adequacy and Quality," in this volume; and "The Consequences of Rapid Population Growth," in Vol. I.
' Liberalized abortion laws are among the methods now being advocated. For a thorough discussion of the wide variety of ethical issues raised by abortion, sec (41).ishc theories of rights.) A fundamental right, therefore alwayshas some c